Executive functioning improves after remission of psychosis and may not deteriorate at short follow-up in early-onset schizophrenia.

OBJECTIVE: Cognitive functions are important determinants of outcome in schizophrenia. Psychiatric hospitalization and intensive treatment in the early-onset psychosis may reduce the severity of psychotic symptoms and improve cognitive functions. It is not clear if after discharge improvement or further deterioration of cognition is observed. The aim of the current study is the evaluation of executive functioning in early onset schizophrenia (EOS) across stages of illness.

METHODS: Two groups of EOS patients: hospitalized subjects with first episode (FES, n=16) at the introduction of pharmacotherapy (T1) and after mean 7 weeks (T2) and stable outpatients group (SO, n=24) were assessed with the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale. Matched healthy (n=32) controls were assessed with WCST.

RESULTS: All patients performed significantly worse in WCST than healthy controls. Subjects in acute psychotic episode (FES T1) presented more pronounced executive impairment and psychopathological symptoms than after the resolution of psychotic symptoms (FES T2). No differences in executive function between FES T2 and SO group were observed. In all assessments perseverative errors correlated with negative symptoms.

CONCLUSION: Cognitive impairment is present at the onset of EOS and persists in attenuated but stable form after the resolution of psychotic symptoms.

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